Jonathan Mannion On Capturing 'Victory & Strength' For Gucci Mane's New LP Cover
“This ones about to feel like freedom and when you look at the cover you see it.”
Over the weekend, Gucci Mane unveiled the cover art for his highly-anticipated comeback album, Everybody Looking.
Capturing Guwop in triumph, the artwork perfectly symbolizes this latest chapter in the newly freed rap star’s career. Looking at it, the visual tells a story of redemption. It shows a man coming out of the turmoil left from his life’s rearview and sprinting toward that light at the end of the tunnel. Hearing it from Jonathan Mannion, who shot the incredible artwork, that was the plan and aim. “Victorious, free, and strong,” said Mannion to REVOLT about the cover. When asked to describe the image that finds Gucci standing in front of a colorful wall, that effectively becomes his canvas, Mannion called it: “Victory, freedom, and strength.”
“This ones feels like freedom and when you [look] at the cover you see it,” he shared. “It’s like victory. It’s special.”
The description that Mannion, who has shot previous album covers for Gucci, gives in regards to his latest album is one that matches his own career. Over the weekend, Jay Z celebrated 20 years of his debut album Reasonable Doubt, which also happens to be a milestone for Mannion’s career. On that 1996 album, Mannion officially began his career as a professional photographer and over the course of 20 years, evolved into a world-renowned visionary.
Speaking on his career, as well as his recent victorious shoot with Gucci Mane, Mannion chats with REVOLT about how he’s long stood as the walking symbolism to the saying, ‘Respect the shooter.’
What was it like reconnecting with Gucci Mane after all these years?
Jonathan Mannion: It was great. He’s in super good spirits. We had to shoot at his house because he’s on house arrest. It started really when he was on the phone. He was like, “Man I wasn’t about to do this thing without you. I couldn’t do it without you.” It’s nice to have that, like you’re chosen for a reason. You’re chosen for what you delivered and the vibration that you sort of bring to any shoot.
You’ve been shooting the biggest of stars, athletes, and entertainers over the last 20 years. How different was this shoot compared to all the others you’ve been apart of?
It’s not really changed up until today for me. When I’m shooting, it’s nothing else that I see. It’s like a sprinter sprinting, or the greatest soccer player playing soccer. They’re not really thinking about anything, but executing. So for me it’s a little slice of freedom because I’m doing something that I love and I always wanted to be attached to the music. It’s like a magazine cover that’s been out for months, it’s cool and I’ve done a bunch of those and loved it and it’s great access to artists, but for me the reward was always shooting album covers because it’s forever attached to the music. You look back at a John Coltrane album, a Bob Marley album, Frank Sinatra, anybody. You become the visual for that soundtrack. I put that weight on my shoulders every time I shoot, including [recently] with Gucci Mane.
You described this latest artwork as a symbol of “victory, freedom and strength.” These words seem to represent the trajectory of your career and how you’ve managed to traverse two decades as a leading, go-to photographer. What do you say to that?**
You know you don’t really forget. Well, I definitely forget dates, because I’ve shot so much that I can’t tell you, like if you asked me about Beanie Sigel’s The Truth album, when did I shoot that. I’ll be like, I don’t know, I shot it in Philly. Like, I remember the moments, the feelings, I don’t remember the statistics really. It becomes more about story telling now versus a Google search.
Is there any moments throughout your career that you hold near and dear, as far as capturing these moments you speak of.
I think the greatest way to describe it is shooting these photos and doing these album covers and working within hip-hop has afforded me with incredible access to people. Without access, you don’t have the opportunity to tell the stories. So the access that I received to these incredible larger than life, celebrated, talented musicians and cultural icons, that’s really the most special aspect of what I do. It’s that, I’m a trusted voice and I’m let in to the point where, literally, Beenie Man told me one time, “You go wherever you want and you do whatever you want. Shoot whatever you need.” To hear that comment, it’s like you’re being protected and guided and let in to an area where people aren’t really let in. I feel a massive responsibility to tell an authentic story and bring that to the people. It’s certainly an art form and I enjoy it thoroughly as a photographer, but I also see it as this storytelling aspect that needs to be understand and relayed properly so that the signals are really clear about what these guys are about and what they stand for. Whether laughing or crying, or animated or angry, strong or flexing, whatever. I always chase that.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been giving that continues to stick to you to this day?
It sounds pretty simple, but a friend of mine named Andre Andrew told me the secret to success is busting you ass. Work fucking really hard. There becomes a flow and it becomes natural, but the opportunities come from the hard work and initiative. Nobody is going to hand you anything, because we all want the same thing. We all want to be doing great things that feel enjoyable. There’s pressure to this certainly, but I think the people that are built to absorb that pressure really gets the big chances to deliver. Good enough is not good enough, at all. So you got to really step up and deliver you best work at all times.